Auckland nutritionist and keen foodie Sian Bennett offers her advice on which foods help prevent hair loss and baldness in both men and women.

There are various reasons for hair loss.

For men, it is generally a hormonal issue linked to the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase on testosterone (which converts to dihydrotestosterone / DHT) and its effect on genetically susceptible hair follicles.

For women, hair loss is more common post-pregnancy, but there are also cases where excessive hair loss can occur after a period of significant stress (or surgery).

As well as a poor diet, other health conditions can also contribute to hair loss (speak to your doctor). As far as nutrients for healthy hair follicles go you need to be adding good quality proteins in the diet. Proteins (amino acids) are the building blocks of our body, so this is key.

Essential fatty acids, especially from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines as well flax seed oil (contains ALA) or freshly ground linseeds. Nuts and seeds, especially raw cashews (peanuts less so I’m afraid), pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Brazil nuts, almonds and walnuts are all helpful.

Evening primrose oil (usually in capsule form) contains GLA, which may be helpful for hair loss. Zinc is an important mineral/antioxidant often lacking in the modern diet and required for cell growth and repair.

Oysters are a top source, otherwise raw nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds) meat and wholegrains contain zinc – some pharmacies or health shops offer an oral zinc test. B vitamins, attained from eating wholegrains, nuts and seeds (again), legumes, egg yolk, savoury yeast, avocado, dark leafy greens and so on are required for healthy skin and hair (among other things).

Vitamin A from liver (preferably organic), fish, seafood, egg yolk and full-fat dairy, or provitamin A in the form of betacarotene from most orange and green vegetables also promotes healthy hair, skin and nails.

Improving the diet and/or supplementing if necessary (make an appointment with a nutritionist or other appropriate health professional) will support overall wellbeing, as well as dealing with an individual’s health concerns.

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